The Best Vanilla Cake I’ve Ever Had

With its outstanding vanilla flavor, pillowy soft crumb, and creamy vanilla buttercream, this is truly the best vanilla cake I’ve ever had. And after 1 bite, I guarantee you’ll agree.

Vanilla cake with vanilla frosting

Out of all the cake recipes on my website, there’s a glaring absence. There’s white cake with a pristine soft crumb, vanilla naked cake with a flavorful tight crumb, and checkerboard cake with a whimsical design.

What about a classic 9 inch vanilla cake draped in vanilla buttercream? I already have homemade vanilla cupcakes and a 6 inch vanilla cake covered. Now in all its crowning glory (and after plenty recipe testing catastrophes), I present you with cake perfection:

This is the best vanilla cake I’ve ever had.

Vanilla cake with 3 layers

What Makes it the Best Vanilla Cake?

Let’s count the ways!

  1. Soft, light crumb from cake flour
  2. Fluffy from extra egg whites
  3. Buttery and cakey from creamed butter
  4. Stick-to-your-fork moist from eggs & buttermilk
  5. Extra flavor from pure vanilla extract

Not to mention its versatility: This vanilla cake batter is strong enough for shaped cakes, tiered cakes (see the slight variation in my homemade wedding cake recipe), and holds up beautifully under fondant. Use this batter for vanilla cupcakes, bundt cake, or even piñata cake. It’s classy enough for a wedding celebration, but unassuming enough for a big family dinner.

Vanilla cake slice

Behind the Vanilla Cake Recipe

After years of cake successes and flops, I’m confident in this homemade vanilla cake. During my recipe testing, I combined my white cake recipe and naked cake recipe. These are two reader favorites and I knew they’d be the best starting point. At first there were too many eggs and I quickly learned sifting cake flour was NOT doing any favors.

You need the following POWER INGREDIENTS:

  1. Cake Flour: If you want a fluffy and soft bakery-style vanilla cake, cake flour is the secret. The cake will be denser and heavier using all-purpose flour. If needed, you can use this cake flour substitute.
  2. Eggs & 2 additional egg whites: 3 whole eggs provide structure, moisture, and richness. 2 extra egg whites keep the cake light and airy. I don’t recommend using 4 whole eggs; stick to the 3 egg & 2 egg white combination.
  3. Baking Powder & Baking Soda: Use both. Remember why? Using enough baking powder to give these layers height gave the cake a bitter aftertaste. Baking soda allows us to use less baking powder.
  4. Buttermilk: Buttermilk is an acidic ingredient and baking soda requires an acid to work. Plus buttermilk yields an EXTRA moist cake crumb. See recipe note about the alternative.

For more prominent vanilla flavor, use homemade vanilla extract. (What a fun DIY gift!) This vanilla cake batter is moderately thick and fits perfectly in 3 9-inch cake pans. I actually use the same exact batter to make snickerdoodle cake!

Vanilla cake batter

Do you know how to level a cake? Let me help. It’s really easy. You can use a fancy cake leveler, but I use a serrated knife. Carefully slice off the tippy top of the cooled cake layers, creating a flat surface. Leveling cakes doesn’t require a ruler, talent, or any mathematical equations. Instead, just use your eyes, hands, and a knife.

Leveling the cake layers promises a straight and sturdy layer cake.

How to level a layer cake

Vanilla frosting on vanilla cake

How Much Frosting Between Cake Layers?

I always eyeball the amount of frosting between cake layers, but I measured when I decorated the pictured cake. The vanilla buttercream recipe below yields about 6 cups of frosting. I recommend you use about 1.5 heaping cups of buttercream between each cake layer and reserve the last 3 cups for outside the cake.

Cake Decoration Inspiration: For a simple look, stick with vanilla buttercream, fresh berries, and mint sprigs. You can also decorate with chocolate buttercream (I recommend this amount), rainbow sprinkles, or even beautiful buttercream flowers.

Top of a vanilla cake

Homemade Vanilla Cake Success Tips

Learn from my mistakes and bake the best cake on the 1st try!

  1. Follow the recipe closely. Use each power ingredient listed.
  2. Use room temperature ingredients. The batter mixes together evenly when all the cake ingredients are roughly the same temperature. This also reduces the risk of over-mixing and over-baking. Set out your ingredients 1 hour before beginning. Read here for more information.
  3. Line your cake pans with parchment. Place your cake pans on a large sheet of parchment paper. Trace the bottom of the cake pan with a pencil. Cut parchment paper into rounds. Grease the pan and the parchment paper. Parchment paper rounds guarantee seamless removal from the pan because the cake slides right out.
  4. Cool cake layers completely. I’ve tried taking shortcuts by assembling a layer cake with semi-warm cake layers. Well, the frosting completely melts and causes the entire cake to collapse. Make sure each layer is cool– refrigerate or freeze the layers if you need to!
  5. Refrigerate decorated cake. After frosting the cake, place it in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. This is optional, but it sets the frosting and cake layers. You’ll get beautifully clean slices because the crumbs are cool and tight.

Great read: Check out Tessa’s Top 10 Best Layer Cake Tips.

Vanilla cake

Finding the perfect vanilla cake recipe requires a celebration. Luckily we have cake!!!

More Classic Cake Recipes

And here is my perfected vanilla cupcakes recipe.

Print
Vanilla cake

Best Vanilla Cake

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 35 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours
  • Yield: 12-14 servings
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

With its outstanding vanilla flavor, pillowy soft crumb, and creamy vanilla buttercream, this is truly the best vanilla cake I’ve ever had. Make sure you read through the recipe and recipe notes before beginning.


Ingredients

  • 3 and 2/3 cups (420gcake flour* (spoon & leveled)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (345gunsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 cups (400ggranulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs + 2 additional egg whites, at room temperature*
  • 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract (yes, Tbsp!)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (360ml) buttermilk, at room temperature*

Vanilla Buttercream

  • 1 and 1/2 cups (345gunsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 6 cups (720gconfectioners’ sugar
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) whole milk or heavy cream
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease three 9-inch cake pans, line with parchment paper, then grease the parchment paper. Parchment paper helps the cakes seamlessly release from the pans.
  2. Make the cake: Whisk the cake flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together. Set aside.
  3. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Beat in the 3 eggs, 2 egg whites, and vanilla extract on high speed until combined, about 2 minutes. (Mixture will look curdled as a result of the egg liquid and solid butter combining.) Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients just until combined. With the mixer still running on low, pour in the buttermilk and mix just until combined. You may need to whisk it all by hand to make sure there are no lumps at the bottom of the bowl. The batter will be slightly thick.
  4. Pour batter evenly into cake pans. Weigh them to ensure accuracy, if desired. Bake for around 23-26 minutes or until the cakes are baked through. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, it’s done. Allow cakes to cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack. The cakes must be completely cool before frosting and assembling.
  5. Make the frosting: In a large bowl using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer fitted with a whisk or paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add confectioners’ sugar, milk, vanilla extract, and salt with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 2 minutes. Add more confectioners’ sugar if frosting is too thin, more milk if frosting is too thick, or an extra pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet.
  6. Assemble and decorate: Using a large serrated knife, slice a thin layer off the tops of the cakes to create a flat surface. Discard (or crumble over ice cream!). Place 1 cake layer on your cake stand, cake turntable, or serving plate. Evenly cover the top with about 1 and 1/2 cups of frosting. Top with 2nd cake layer and evenly cover the top with about 1 and 1/2 cups of frosting. Top with the third cake layer. Spread the remaining frosting all over the top and sides. I use and recommend an icing spatula to apply the frosting.
  7. Refrigerate cake for at least 1 hour before slicing. This helps the cake hold its shape when cutting.
  8. Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: The cake layers can be baked, cooled, and covered tightly at room temperature overnight. Likewise, the frosting can be prepared then covered and refrigerated overnight. Let the frosting sit at room temperature to slightly soften for 10 minutes before assembling and frosting. Frosted cake or unfrosted cake layers can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before decorating/serving. See how to freeze cakes for detailed instructions.
  2. 9×13 Inch Cake: I recommend using my white cake batter instead. Both use similar ingredients and produce a deliciously light vanilla cake. See recipe notes for the 9×13 inch version.
  3. 2 Layer Cake: I recommend using my 2 layer white cake batter instead. Both use similar ingredients and produce a deliciously light vanilla cake.
  4. Bundt Cake: This vanilla cake batter will fit into a 10-cup or larger bundt pan. I’m unsure of the exact bake time (likely around an hour), but use a toothpick to test for doneness. Same oven temperature.
  5. Cupcakes: Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full. Bake at 350°F (177°C) for 19-21 minutes. Yields about 3 dozen. Or try my vanilla cupcakes recipe.
  6. Cake Flour: To prevent a dry-tasting cake, make sure you are spooning and leveling the flour or weighing it. For the best results, I strongly recommend cake flour. You can find it in the baking aisle and I have many more recipes using it. If you can’t get your hands on cake flour, you can make a homemade cake flour substitute.
  7. Eggs: 3 whole eggs provide structure, moisture, and richness. 2 extra egg whites keep the cake light and airy. I don’t recommend using 4 whole eggs; stick to the 3 egg & 2 egg white combination. Here are recipes using leftover egg yolks.
  8. Buttermilk: If you don’t have buttermilk, you can make a DIY sour milk substitute. Add 2 teaspoons of white vinegar or lemon juice to a liquid measuring cup. Then add enough whole milk to the same measuring cup until it reaches 1 and 1/2 cups. (In a pinch, lower fat or nondairy milks work for this soured milk, but the cake won’t taste as moist or rich.) Stir it around and let sit for 5 minutes. The homemade “buttermilk” will be somewhat curdled and ready to use in the recipe.
  9. Why is everything at room temperature? All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the batter mixes together easily and evenly. Read here for more information.
  10. Want chocolate frosting instead?: I recommend the recipe/amount of chocolate frosting I use for Piñata Cake.
  11. Sprinkle Cake: To make a sprinkle cake, fold about 3/4 cup (120g) of sprinkles into the cake batter. Avoid nonpareils (the little balls), which tend to bleed their color.

Keywords: cake, vanilla cake, vanilla frosting, baking, birthday cake

Vanilla cake

1065 Comments

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  1. Hi Sally
    I made this cake last night as a test for a wedding cake I’m making for my brother. And oh my word it was a hit!!! It was delicious and moist and everything I hoped it would be. It was gone before I could even take a picture.
    Thank you so much! ❤️

  2. Hi Heidi! One recipe should be enough for those size cakes. But will each size have layers? If so and you need more batter, I recommend making the batter twice instead of doubling. I’m unsure of the exact bake times, but you can use a toothpick to test for doneness.

  3. Sally
    I made this cake yesterday for my son’s high school graduation.
    Fantastic all around. The cake was light, moist and just delicious.
    I bake quite a bit but do not often use a Cake Flour. I will now be using it a lot more often!

  4. Hi, I used this recipe to bake my daughter’s first birthday cake. I used Premium Gold flax and ancient grains all purpose flour and ener-g egg replacer. We don’t eat eggs and my husband is gluten intolerant. I have been baking gluten free cakes with oil but baked with butter for the first time. It came out pretty good. I followed the recipe but had to bake it longer because of gluten free flour. Thanks for sharing!

  5. I we are in Ireland and cake flour is not available in U.K. And Europe would all purpose not work

  6. Hi Sally,
    I am looking to use this recipe to make a 16” x 2” round cake today. Does this recipe provide enough batter to do so? I’ve used this recipe for normal size cakes and it is delicious, just not an oversized one yet.

    Thank you

    1. This amount of batter should work, yes!

  7. Hi Sally,
    I have made this cake several times, all we’re delicious! I am now needing to make it but for a 16” x 2” pan. Will the recipe as is accommodate the pan?

    Thank you!!

    1. It should, yes!

  8. I am needing batter for a 9×13 pan PLUS 1- 9 inch round (going to attempt to make it look like a bunny after I cut it up). I know you have a sheet cake recipe but I really would love to use this vanilla recipe. Do you think this recipe could stretch out over the two pans? Am I asking for a disaster? :/

    1. Hi Kristine! Actually, this batter should be plenty for both cakes you’re describing.

  9. Hi Sally! Absolutely love this cake recipe and use it constantly. I’ve been asked to make a pride cake. Would this work well? I’m worried about overmixing it to add colors in each bowl for the rainbow. I’ve also seen it done where you add the buttermilk to each bowl with the color, THEN add the mixture of dry and wet to each rainbow color bowl. I know you’re supposed to alternate buttermilk and flour – would this order still work for the recipe? So appreciate your help!!! xo

    1. Hi Elyse! No need to change the order of mixing or anything. Divide the batter between several bowls and tint with desired colors. That’s how I usually make colored layered cakes, including with this vanilla cake batter. Have fun!

      1. Elyse Purbaugh says:

        Thank you!!! I’ll make sure to tag @sallysbakeblog so you can see final result. So appreciate the prompt response!

  10. Sally, I am planning on using this vanilla cake recipe to make two loaf pan cakes. They will then be carved and frosted into two gerbil cakes. (Wish me luck!)
    1. Do you recommend using this “Best vanilla cake recipe” or the white cake recipe instead?
    2. Is this 3 layer recipe sufficient for the 2 loaf pans, or excessive?

    Thank you! Ellen

    1. Hi Ellen! This cake would be ideal. It will fit into 2 loaf pans and you may actually have enough for 3 loaf pans.

  11. Hi Sally,
    I am planning on making a naked cake for my nephews birthday and am trying to decide on which recipe to use. Would this one work or would you recommend using your vanilla naked cake recipe?
    thank you

    1. Hi Kassia! Either are great. They’re pretty similar.

  12. Hi is the temperature for a fan oven? We work in degrees C but reduce by 20 degrees for a fan oven. So am I baking at 175degs or 155?

    1. Hi Ali, the temperature is for a conventional oven.

  13. You are absolutely right: this is the best vanilla cake ever. I really don’t like cakes, but I bake a lot and never I eat cakes! Today I make this for a friend of my son and I cannot stop to eat all the part I cut to level the cake! Thank you for sharing the recipe!!!!

  14. Hi, sally! Can I double this recipe for 3 12-in pans?

    1. Hi Jenni! For absolutely best results in taste and texture, make the two batches of batter separately– don’t double all at once. Happy baking!

  15. Mary McCutcheon says:

    What do I do if I want to make this cake in a half sheet size??

    1. I haven’t made this recipe yet, but if this recipe usually makes a 9 x 13, you should be able to double it to make a 1/2 sheet cake. The baking time may increase a bit, so be prepared to check it at the prescribed time, and adjust accordingly.

    2. Has anyone ever made a yellow/vanilla cake but decorated 1/2 with vanilla buttercream and 1/2 with chocolate? I looked for pictures and didn’t find any. Any thoughts? Trying to make 1 cake for 2 sides of the family, er, me and the wife. Thought about giving this a try.

    3. Rachel Dispennette says:

      I make it as a half sheet cake (12″ x 18″ pan) by doubling Sally’s recipe, baking at 325 for 50-65 minutes (depends on the oven; check with a toothpick). Turns out great!

  16. Jody E Scimone says:

    Do you think this cake would take well to food coloring? I wanted to make a blue ombre cake and need 3 different layers of blue. Or would your white cake recipe be best for that? Also, fo you have a blue velvet cake recipe (I wanted one chocolate layer too) TIA

    1. Hi Jody! Yep, this cake batter is great for tinting colors. Here is my red velvet cake recipe if you would like to tint it blue instead of red.

  17. Hello! This might be a bit of a stupid question. I’m going to make this for my boyfriend soon, and I was wondering if the vanilla extract had to be 100% pure, the only one at my grocery store has a lot of added sugar.
    Thank you 🙂 can’t wait to bake this!

    1. Hi Gloria! Try to find pure vanilla extract zero added sugar.

  18. Hi Sally,
    I have a very small kitchen and oven and therefore no space for multiple cake pans. What happens if I bake the layers after each other?

    1. That’s totally fine. Keep the unused batter covered lightly at room temperature until ready to bake.

    2. Why not buy the disposable cake pans? That’s what I do. I don’t have multiple cake pans either.

      1. Lori Keating says:

        It isn’t the amount of cake pans on hand, it is the room to bake them in the oven all at once.

    3. Hi Sally wondering if I could add mini chocolate chips to this cake recipe?

      1. Definitely! I recommend 1 – 1.5 cups.

  19. Meining Sanasac says:

    Hi Sally!
    I was wondering if I could use the buttermilk from Walmart (the cultured kind) or do I get the churned buttermilk? Thanks!

    1. Yep, you can use that buttermilk for this vanilla cake recipe.

  20. I an giving this a four for flavor. I had an issue. The cake came out almost cornbread texture. It was moist and delish but don’t know why the texture. Any guesses?

  21. Can I substitute almond extract, and if so, how much do I add? I’d like a subtle flavor so would 1/2 tbs vanilla & 1/2 tbs almond work? Thanks!

    1. Hi Regina! Yes. If using almond extract, I still recommend a touch of vanilla as well. Those amounts would be 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 and 1/2 teaspoons almond extract.

  22. Oh my gosh! Just WONDERFUL! This recipe took me two tries because the texture was very dense the first time. I figured I had overdeveloped the gluten so tried gently folding in the dry mixture with a rubber spatula instead of using the hand mixer and VOILA! Perfection. I baked the cake for my mother-in-law’s birthday and it was a hit!!

  23. Hi sally, I’m new to baking so i thought of starting with a vanilla cake. But i wanted to make a small one on a trial basis. Does the recipe work of i just take exactly half quantities of the ingredients? And in that case should i reduce the amount of vanilla extract and baking soda and baking powder? Sorry it’s a silly question seeing there are all amazing bakers here but I’m really inspired by your notes. Thank you.

    1. Hi Vaidehi! You can certainly halve all of these ingredients (each one) for a smaller cake. Or you can try my smaller 6 inch vanilla cake recipe. You can leave out the sprinkles and apply a simple layer of vanilla frosting. (Skip the fancy buttercream flowers!)

  24. Is this buttercream recipe stiff enough to pipe flowers/roses?

    1. Sure is!

  25. Hi Sally,

    I just made this over the weekend and it was a hit!

    I have a question though — how would you suggest I adapt this recipe for a 3-layer 6 inch cake as opposed to 9 inch? My thoughts are you would cut the recipe by 1/3. Do I have that right? What would you suggest I do about the eggs?

    1. Hi Kirstie! I have an easy solution– use my 6 inch vanilla cake recipe. You can skip the sprinkles.

  26. Sally the recipe was a hit. Thank you. I used 2 10″x3″ pans a yielding 2 layers. However, I would love for my layers to be higher. Next time I do the recipe I’m planning on doing a 10″ double barrel cake. Each cake would be two layer with a cake board in between for support. Based on my estimates, I would need to triple the recipe.
    1. Do I triple the recipe or do three separate batches?
    2. If doing different batches….what would be the best way to bring the batches together? (Did i mentioned I want high layers 1.5″ or higher LOL)
    3. Would I need dowels?
    Thanks a million.

    1. Sounds great, Liza– I would make 3 separate batches. If you have a mixing bowl large enough, mix the batter all together after they’re individually prepared. Dowels are always a smart choice for extra support on a tall tiered cake!

    2. Thanks! More clarifying questions…
      1. Once I pour the 3 different batches into the large mixing bowl… what is the best way to unify them… folding, using the mixer or other?
      2. I only have 2 cake pans and need to do 4 layers. What is the best way to store the remaining batter while the 1st 2 cakes bake?
      Thanks 🙂

      1. Hi Liza!
        1. Gently fold the batters together- no need to use a mixer!
        2. Keep the batter on the counter until the first two cakes are baked.
        Happy baking!

  27. Hi,

    I was wondering, would you recommend using this cake to make cake pops?

    1. Hi Nadine! You can use this cake for cake pops– make sure you have the appropriate amount of frosting for this size cake. Instead, it might be easier to use my homemade cake pops recipe.

  28. Sally, can you turn this recipe into cupcakes?

    1. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full. Bake at 350°F (177°C) for 19-21 minutes.

  29. sheila arrowood says:

    most definitely the best vanilla cake!!!!!!!!! thanks, done by the recipe was delicious

  30. Hi Sally. Can you bake the cake 2 days in advance and decorate a day in advance? To make work light?

    1. Definitely. I recommend keeping the cake layers covered tightly at room temperature until ready to assemble.

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